‘The Key to everything’ according to Liam Gillick in his first book”Erasmus is late” “is an understanding that a desire to predict the future is central to a development of a particular form of free-marketeering”
Without a doubt the future of God lies in technology. Whether as with Islamic state’s use of technology to further their ideology and spread fear. Or as a tool allowing scientists to reach further into our material world and locate more phenomenon that needs to be theoretically explained – the big bang, dark matter and quantum theory for example. The area of technology I am interested in is the place where humans can commune with new forms of algorithms combining in often unexpected ways.
Traditionally our relationship with God has been mediated through oral communication, ritual ceremonies, scripture and with artworks. As technology continues to merge with human consciousness what role does an artist have as a conduit or producer of algorithms to commune with God?
Spiritual beings must be understood to mean conscious subjects with capacities superior to those of ordinary men. Émile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, p31
I use the term God to refer to a range of descriptions of a deity or power controlling the destiny of Humans. The word God entered the discourse of my research through what I later discovered is the technological singularity. Another description of this phenomenon is the Omega Point coined by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man (Le phénomène humain, 1955). Teilhard describes humankind as evolution becoming conscious of itself.
Once humans gained consciousness they began to use technology. I want to follow the trajectory of conscious beings, the history of the use of technological systems to log or map our place in the world. How this log has been used as a method to attempt communion with god. I am interested in how this idea has come to be known as art.
People say that we create technologies which alienate us, but the fact is that anything made by humans is a de facto expression of humanity. Technology cannot be alienating, because humans created it. Genuinely alien technologies can only be created by aliens.
This is Stated by Douglas Coupland and Shumon Basar, In the Age of Earthquakes this publication takes the form of a homage to Marshall Mcluhans 1967 Cult classic The Medium Is the Massage. McLuhan stated similar theories that all media are extensions of our human senses, bodies and minds. His famous quote that ALL MEDIA WORK US OVER COMPLETELY, that media is:
So pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.
This research is looking at the areas Mcluhan was highlighting. The starting point for this research is to look at sculptural installations. Structures or sculptural installations have been produced to commune with god throughout human history. I am interested in how these objects specifically based around the circle have been constructed and how they delineate an area or site for activity. Specific examples I will look at include Stonehenge, the Parthenon in Rome and Brunelleschi and Donatello sacristy in Florence. How the human subject activates these spaces through their movement into and out of the space. How these spaces are usually constructed by using geometry and configured to their larger context within the natural environment, or located within a site of worship. The use of sculpture to define ritual space and the ritual use of this space.
Since I wrote my Dissertation in 2002 ‘A World of Confusion‘ Media consumption has gone from a top down mass media to a shared social media space, Rhizomes of interest. I believe there is some comparison between the way ritual physical spaces have been made and constructed throughout history, and the way the communal social media spaces exist online. Event based Facebook and Instagram operate like circles people are attracted to. I believe making and planning my sculptural installation the god talker (alternatively named the device: trans-dimensional connector to the simulated code of the universe or above all else I want to see) will deliver insights and observable similarities transference will occur. Through this research I am becoming increasingly interested in futurology and how this has been used by artists. I first noted on 14 July 2017 the similarity to VALIS (Vast Active living intelligence system) a novel by Philip K Dick.
An early primitive example of an artwork used to map our place in the world is the ‘Churinga’ made by the indigenous people of Australia. Émile Durkheim describes these as sacred objects used to symbolise both the totem usually an animal or plant, and the relationship of the totem to the people within the totems clan, A diagram of the overall relationship.
Churingas are objects of wood and stone like so many others; they are distinct from profane things of the same kind in only one respect: they are engraved or painted with the totemic mark .. .. Churinga owe their religious nature exclusively to the fact they bar the totemic emblem…. These emblems or representations: consist essentially in geometrical designs drawn upon the churinga .. .. The connection between the figure and the thing represented is so remote and indirect that it cannot be seen, except when it is pointed out. Only the members of the clan can say what meaning is attached to the combinations of lines. The Elementary Form of Religious life, p100
This project came to me quickly and yet at various stages over several years, The inspiration for the sculptural object came on a trip to the Emil Nolde foundation in Germany in April 2017 I was working for the Henry Moore foundation installing an exhibition when I went for a walk around the nearby fields and saw a structure in the distance, I was instantly drawn to it and the location within the landscape, it alluded to a device for communing with the gods. I photographed it and sketched it upon my return to England, I did nothing more with it for sometime. I discovered it was actually a leftover from the SKANDALØS music festival held on the site every year.
“Conceptual art is not necessarily logical. The ideas need not be complex. Most ideas that are successful are ludicrously simple. Successful ideas generally have the appearance of simplicity because they seem inevitable.” Artforum, 1967.
My practice over the last 10 years has been based on finding different methods to both divide and expand into space using approaches which limit or stop wholly aesthetic decisions. Dividing through folding and colouring sections of paper based on its size, the folded works, using and making sculptures from a set of predefined materials the UNIT series, ‘The unitary size (285x285mm) was arrived at in relation to the ease of working. The single unit being a favorable size for the hand, noted is a single UNIT closeness to the foot measurement’. Carl Andre used a self-imposed strict set of modular items, bricks, planks, wooden beams, concrete blocks to produce Geometric constructions. My works operate in a minimalist oeuvre, using ideas of instructions to limit choices a system many of the minimalist artists use. Sol leWitt uses instructions to produce both sculpture and drawings, where by the instructions are all that is needed to reproduce the work.
Minimal art (originally named systems art) and then conceptual art (idea art) all use an idea or systems as the driver for the production of artwork. There is a correlation to the algorithms I am interested in, are the ideas that drove these artworks algorithms?
An underlying premise I have been always been interested in is the point at which abstraction takes on meaning. Many of my works attempted to hover just at this place where form becomes known and named. In 2005 Lisa Le Feuvre wrote about my work:
Working in sculpture, Dai Roberts seeks to find the point just before abstraction takes on a recognisable form, making a detour before identification can take place. He is interested in the ways in which the form of objects can pause before the application of concrete language and signification takes place. In this process of slippage ‘meaning’ is created through in its own avoidance.
In 2009 I won the Marmite painting prize with a work entitled IAO, this piece is a good visual reference to the serial thinking, demarcation and reduction present in my work. The works are minimal but they also hark back to a modernist tradition that is all but lost, we just feel the remnants subsumed in our lives, as Mark Lewis says – Is modernity our antiquity Why are so many artists drawn to modernist forms and landmarks that are slowly crumbling and disappearing ?
Mel Bochner in his essay ‘Serial art, Systems Solipsism’ written in 1967 says that artists like Andre can only be described as ‘systematic’ One thread that is coming to light through this research is my interest in the underlying systems in place to produce the works that are attempting to commune with god. Minimalism was attempting to put the system of producing artworks right at the forefront of the work itself to make it as transparent as possible. My works attempt to do this also, although my work relates more to the human scale and the body rather than the grand gestures of American minimalism, The works I have produced have been looking for something to fill the void in them. I often wrote in my sketchbooks how the work was empty looking for meaning. Looking back for meaning?
I kept doing the works serially well beyond the point where the form or idea became exhausted, a good example of this is the UNIT drawing series from 2008-2009 almost 200 drawings were produced keeping the same set of rules about the elements within the drawings. These ‘UNIT drawings were not sketches for any UNIT sculptures instead they are completed works, unlike the sculptures they do not need to follow the rules of gravity, they are abstract drawings at the same time as alluding to concrete objects’. I just kept doing them hopeful something would come. Looking at these works again, I would now try to use a more critical approach to my nostalgic use of some modernist tropes, A wilful melancholy for a utopian ideal – Modernism.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy said that Modern Design is the integration of technological, social, and economical requirements, biological necessities, and the psychological effects of materials, shape, color, volume and space.
Why this particular style of drawing/object making?
I return to practical forms of making as a method to locate myself. From this comes a belief that we can make things better in the future. I have always been productive. Geometric Abstraction is at the heart of the modernist project.
The complete and definitive work of art is created beyond one’s individuality… …The universal transcends such a level. Mere spontaneity has never created a work of art which possesses a lasting cultural value. The method leading to universal form is based upon calculations of measure and number. Theo van Doesburg
I was well aware from an early stage in my artistic career that the utopian dreams of modernist artists had passed and that we were in a post modern, post structuralist era. I spent a long time agonising over what to do at art school and this continues, I was on a quest to find what I should do.
In the light of not being able to find anything better I continued to produced works based on geometric abstraction, I used different novel methods both in construction techniques and use of materials, I set myself limited instructions to produce the works much as the systems artists of the 1960’s did. Quest 38 above used the folding of the photographic paper to act as the negative of its own production, the negative and positive became one thing. The work headed towards a point where nothing came, through continuing to focus on this point, an intense form of waiting ensued. I believe that through this waiting and the continued search for meaning, through disappointment and lack of revelation, ruptures occur and something else comes into being. A synergy of elements based on all of my interests.
How these forms take their own folding both inwards and outwards as their purpose. Expansion (UNIT) and contraction (the folded paper works). A language based on form of shape, not based on the roman alphabet.
Modernity is a qualitative, not a chronological, category – Theodor W. Adorno
I have always kept a sketchbook and made notes and drawings in the last few years they have become more focused around technology (the future), equality and ecology (saving the planet) and the work has taken on a sense of an interplay between genuine and fiction – wild ideas that might pay off or simply be a nice idea if not, two good examples of this are idea’s for phone Apps. i) The best way in the world app – an arrow that points you the best way in the world. ii) An app that tells you the likelihood your current task you are working on will end in human extinction or human salvation. Both would require an algorithm.These two ideas again are similar to a Philip K Dick novel specifically the novel UBIK a special spray that alters reality, the characters in UBIK need to keep using this spray to keep their best way or their reality becomes worse. Along with this I produced a series of potential posters ‘Vague explanations’ and I have been collecting a series of ’21st century moments’ things that humans will of only been doing in the very recent past, an example is cleaning the solar panels.
Another area of interest coming out of the 1960’s is the social or politically active artist. Guy Debord opens his The Society of the Spectacle with
The WHOLE LIFE of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that was once directly lived has become mere reproduction (1994, p12).
Debord provocative approach of Détournement or hijacking/rerouting as he called it was aimed at turning expressions of the capitalist system and its media culture against itself. Many of these techniques are used by Adam Curtis to discuss current complex issues most recently in his film HyperNormalisation
We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed – they have no idea what to do. BBC website
This method of Détournement attempts to uncover hidden patterns and examples of the power structure that control our lives. I find what becomes apparent when looking at these power structures is the arbitrary nature of the application of power. Power is presented to look ordained and natural. This role of ordaining power structures to appear natural was often previously fulfilled by organised religion, God was used to dictate the laws of the land.
The god talker website is currently a form of Détournement aimed at highlighting some of the possibilities of where large corporations could be heading with their data collecting and algorithm processing powers. Taking the possibilities to a logical end point an all-powerful algorithm able to predict your every move and offer you advice on your best way forward, also able to reward and penalise you for your behaviour.
In Inventing the Future Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams discuss the left’s failure to rein in global capitalism since the 1970’s. They articulate that this is because of a tendency for a ‘folk politics’ of the left, a temporary reactionary occurrence to the rise of the permanent state of neoliberalism. One of the methods they describe to possibly overcome neoliberalism is for the left to seize control of the future through offering utopian visions of the future. The god talker offers a view such as this. Also highlighted is the way utopian visions bring practical problems to light within these visions. The god talker project aims to open up dialogue around the future possibilities of monetising (monitoring?) the private realms of existence by corporations. Also a reflection of corporate lack of transparency around equality and ecology. It appears everybody agrees with equality as an idea but in reality the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest continues to grow.
In the Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett go to great length to show us time and time again with statistics and reason that a more equal society is a healthier and happier society, Scandinavia often coming out as the most equal of societies and America and England come out as some of the most unequal equality trust. With more wealth and power consolidating to fewer people (the 1%) and a growing amount of surplus labour without viable employment options, I believe we need algorithms and artificial intelligence to be set to task to produce novel solutions for us. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams call us to ‘demand full automation’ and a universal basic income for all. The godtalker as a vision of the future could do away with the need for a system of paid employment, instead you are credited/deducted for your actions on an ongoing instant basis throughout all activities you are involved with. As well rights of ownership could be seen very differently. This vision of the future is something I very much want to research.
Algorithms are being produced to maximise profit. People are making billions out of milliseconds of latency on the stock markets for example. I am trying to offer a different idea of what algorithms could do in the future, whilst highlighting what profit-making algorithms could do to these ideas in the future.
Heading to eternity in the perfection of an ideal, The point at which the epitome or epoch of an idea reaches forward/ heads towards infinity/eternity. How is this point negotiated?
Once this point is passed how the aftermath is dealt with. What do we come back with, how the moment becomes a part of life. Dropping out of eternity into the naming of the form? conscious language creation.
Personalism and universalism
How do personal interests leave and connect to the universal and how are our personal beliefs and thoughts shaped by those universal ideas. There appears slippage in this process from personal to universal there are forces acting on it. The transference from personal to universal and back can operate in surprising ways. What are the forces at play here?
Instead of art I have taught philosophy. Though technique for me is a big word, I never have taught how to paint. All my doing was to make people see. Josef Albers
Artwork is the programming by a higher power or intelligence (Teilhard noosphere). The human creation of coding or programming of an algorithm. The pulling of thoughts and feelings from the unconscious into creative patterns by humans and then outputting as art reprogrammed the social existence of humans, in a subcendant form.
Taken from humankind Timothy Morton, the whole is less than the parts.
An idea that is very popular with 21st century technologists is disruptive innovation this seems very similar to the 20th century avant-garde modernists idea of permanent revolution and disruption to social norms.
How is the future being imagined currently? what thinking is occurring outside of a capitalist future. What might the distance between an artist and a superintellegence be.
If there were nothing else to do but to love, as in the Christian utopia of a future life in which there are no material wants, Women would be supreme. But life is surrounded with difficulties, which it needs all our thoughts and energies to avoid; therefore Man takes the command, notwithstanding his inferiority in goodness. Auguste Comte, A general view of positivism, P182
Thinkers: Religion and Science
Scientific enquiry has become the main rational method used to describe the world around us. Since this time thinkers have produced doctrines and theories which attempted to put forth a system for moral and intellectual growth. These systems may be just ideas. They attempted to cite man’s place in the universe and posit methods of growth morally and intelligently. Today all systems appear subjected to the mode of capital, the overriding function shall be to produce profit, education included. The world is a poorer place because of this. Ideas of moral and intelligence should be allowed to flourish beyond profit. We should put in place systems to allow this to occur. Thinkers who attempted this fusion created their own systems or scales, their own all encompassing theories. Including: Walter Russell, Rudolf Steiner, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Auguste Comte, Emil durkiem, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Lewis Mumford.
It is not that these ideas are accurate or inaccurate more that an exploration of the descriptive modes they used could be a worthy task to inform future plans.
The primacy of artistic production over the production of capital profits.
The production of capital profit has become the overriding operating concern of contemporary society. The role of public service and social relations including democracy have become subsumed under this directive of expanding entrepreneurial methods to produce profits (accounting techniques?).
The god talker aims to highlight the primacy of artistic endeavour and its moral production in nature. Reflecting back to our time creating spaces for other forms of production to become viable. To posit that in a post work society creative exploration and production by humans should be the prime motivator and reward function of a societal system.
What happens at the point we transcend, (2001, interstellar) do time and space cease to operate. What is beyond this point? beyond the event horizon? A higher intelligence. Can that higher intelligence communicate and guide us now.
What visions have been created of this place? do they already exist as artwork? Abstract artwork could describe (or be) the vision of the utopian world beyond transcendence. In which human individuality no longer exists.
How do my works operate in the gallery context?
Are these works pointing towards something such as furniture in the UNIT, Kingsgate Gallery, 2009 or waiting in the gallery as a specific object for something to happen like a piece of classic minimalism 30 artists 30 days, studio1.1, 2012 . At the time I was not convinced completely with either of these outcomes. As an evolving body of work it allowed me to see the passing of an epoch for myself to pass through my own personal production phase. To understand the passing of an idea from its birth to its end once it has delivered insight and knowledge. The gallery and exhibition are a crucial moment in this production and document of the journey of these works. It offers an important focus point in time for reflection and enquiry of the work that has been produced. The UNIT Press Release I wrote for the exhibition UNIT at Kingsgate Gallery is self referential much like the production of the UNIT series itself. These works and ideas were building upon themselves, some of the disappointment mentioned above may have been because I could not locate satisfactory external references points to my practice, instead I located concrete methods for my work to exist from within its own practice. The relationship between practice and theory is not a linear model instead it ebbs and flows with moments of clarity and identification with theoretical debates and moments turned into formal practice. I have always kept notebooks and these are an invaluable tool for logging of my ideas. Along with the artworks produced these notebooks allow for reflection and the tracing of a body of interest to occur, some of these ideas can be seen in the Sketchbook pages.
One of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin ideas is the Noosphere a sphere of human thought that encircles the globe made up of all human knowledge and consciousness. What language would the noosphere be made of? a part of this noosphere would be artistic creations, what would these creations be doing in the noosphere? I posit that primarily they operate beyond our conscious thoughts or rather in tandem with them, taking us into the other senses and it is through these exist the possibility of commune. Teilhard posited that this noosphere was the ‘brain’ of the earth or the universe coming into consciousness. The idea of the noosphere has been said to be easily transferable to the internet of today.
If evolution is the biological coming of consciousness (Teilhad’s Noosphere), and machine learning is the technological coming of consciousness (Kurzweil’s technological singularity). I would posit Art as a method of communication and/or method of description, a visual language between humans and these realms.
I want to place more impetus on how my work exists in the gallery and what it would say to the larger world beyond the white walls. The god talker is delivering this possibly to me. The works I am proposing here operate mainly outside the gallery, in the landscape and on a phone. How might the things around the work fill the gallery, the research, the designs, How will I return to production methods of geometric abstraction, to make works in relationship to the gallery space and the idea’s of the God talker. The formal quality of works guiding a larger visual language. This leads back to one of my first points I made in the proposal, Art as a log of activity in relationship to commune. How might I activate the Gallery in a way such as this.
Liam Gillick talks about his work as a series of things he made whilst waiting for something to happen. Liam Gillick is one of the artists associated with Nicolas Bourriaud idea of relational aesthetics. Bourriaud defines relational aesthetics as:
A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.”
The artist can be more accurately viewed as the “catalyst” in relational art, rather than being at the centre. The god talker project fits very much into the relational aesthetics oeuvre it is attempting to be present through the whole of human relations, it isn’t just interested in an art world but the whole social context. Another artist highlighted by Bourriaud is Philippe Parreno , Parreno’s Tate commission work Anywhen for the Turbine hall is designed to challenge your perceptions of time and space.
Anywhen is a site-specific exhibition that changes throughout the day and that will evolve during the six-month period of the commission. The exhibition is conceived as an automaton which guides the public through a constantly changing play of moving elements, light configurations and sound environments. The artist states that ‘the exhibition is a construction of situations or sequences in a non-linear narrative. Tate website(moremoremore)
Anywhen is conceived as an automaton using micro organisms as the driver to produce the output sequencing. Parreno’s work tries to blur the boundaries of reality and fiction, visiting this exhibition and trying to make sense of what is occurring, the reason why we are seeing what we are is an important part of this work. Within the press release Parreno calls this experience the ritual form of the exhibition. I visited the exhibition several times and was always left with the notion as mentioned previously of ‘waiting for something to happen’.
Alongside conceptual and minimal art of the 1960’s another area of interest for this project is Land art, specifically Nancy Holt’s sun Tunnels.
Sun Tunnels consists of four massive concrete tunnels, each eighteen feet long and nine feet in diameter, laid out in the desert in an open X configuration. On the solstices, the tunnels frame the sun as it passes the horizon at sunrise and sunset. In the top of each tunnel, Holt drilled small holes to form the constellations of Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn. These holes, and the tunnels themselves, act as frames or lenses through which the visitor can view the surrounding sky and landscape of the Great Basin Desert.
Also Robert Smithson with his iconic Spiral Jetty, Smithson was an extensive writer interested in ecological systems and science fiction. More research to carry out..
There is a correlation between the demarcation of space through the construction of circles for communal purposes and the methods I have been interested in my own practice of dividing space.
I want to ask those with a vested interest in the future of god their opinion, I have prepared a survey that I hope people from a variety of religious groups will be able to complete for me.
Returning back to my description of social media as rhizomatic circles of attraction. The rhizome can be seen as a model for how social relations and power could be shared in a permanent rather than reactionary way. Between 2002 and 2004 I attended and worked on the Braziers international artist workshop , Held at Braziers park in Oxfordshire. Braziers park was founded in 1950 as an educational trust, and is a continuing experiment in the advantages and problems of living in a non hierarchical group.
The Artists workshop encouraged artists to take risks and make works outside of their normal practice. At Braziers I made an installation in the environment, the ‘big stick’ this was 4.8m high made from one inch wood with a fluorescent painted front edge that was placed in the landscape and intended to be viewed from afar to give the impression of cutting the tree line and ground, marking the territory. I also produced the ‘wooden ship’ an object alluding to alien invaders. In 2012 I was asked by some of the founders of the Braziers international artist workshop to participate in an exhibition at Braziers park, I showed a version of the UNIT sculptures using hand-made concrete sheets and varnished MDF.
Dai Roberts, Big stick, braziers park, 2004
Noon day demons – The noon day demons was a collaborative drawing project I was involved with. Consisting of five artists with an international background, all based in London. The group came into being early 2006 with the intention of exploring collective unconscious and uniqueness through the medium of drawing.
Rojaraku 2005 – A spatial art workshop where we produced artworks and made a collaborative document in the form of a sardine tin of artists works.
Between 2006 and 2011, I kept an infrequent blog about Art, A collections of thoughts about the artwork I was producing.
This God Talker project will inform me of its own needs as it progresses and the sculptural device (trans-dimensional connector to the simulated code of the universe or TDR or above all else I want to see or The god talker) will serve as a focus point of my research this will open up the further details of what is needed to be researched. The research has taken me to look at future theories from science.
WE SHOULD EXPECT A SUPERINTELLIGENT MACHINE TO KNOW US BETTER THAN WE KNOW OURSELVES. MURRAY SHANAHAN – THE TECHNOLOGICAL SINGULARITY, P147
Currently the work looks to include, the god talker sculpture, totems small clay objects, a series of index cards boxes of notes combining sketches and online notes (250 currently), diagrams and explanations, mobile applications real or mock, larger 2D dividing abstract commutative devices and the research presented as this website.
Produce a computational language based on forms. A computational language based on form of shape, not based on the roman alphabet. Our method of consciously thinking about the computational langauge will need to change as this is created. what is object orientated? This would be an interesting area to communicate with technologists about.
Another algorithm idea: the atom splitter, a circular division game.
Supervisors: Fine art, Technology and Philosophy.